Arson blamed for pool fire in Bryant Woods

August 03, 1993|By Adam Sachs | Adam Sachs,Staff Writer

Investigators say a two-alarm fire that caused extensive structural damage to the Bryant Woods Neighborhood Center and an adjacent pool building early yesterday was set.

"We've determined the cause to be arson," said Bob Thomas, deputy chief state fire marshal. "At this point, we have no suspects for the arson fire, nor do we have a clear motive."

State fire officers removed evidence from the scene yesterday and sent it to the State Police Crime Laboratory in Pikesville for analysis, Mr. Thomas said. He said he could not reveal what evidence was found.

The fire at the center in Columbia's Wilde Lake village caused an estimated $250,000 in damage, said Mr. Thomas, adding that the estimate "could go higher." No one was hurt during the fire, which was reported at 1:37 a.m. yesterday.

Investigators say the fire started near the Columbia Association pump house and bath house building for the Bryant Woods neighborhood swimming pool. It spread to the roof of an adjacent commercial building owned by the association and Columbia Management Inc., a division of the Rouse Co.

The 3,000-square-foot neighborhood center was built in 1970, said Cathy A. Lickteig, a Rouse Co. spokeswoman.

"Both buildings were pretty well destroyed," she said.

The Montessori nursery school and Backstage Dance Studio lease space in the neighborhood center in the 10400 block of Green Mountain Circle. Both businesses have been displaced by the fire and are working with management officials to find new quarters. Columbia Management Inc. crews spent yesterday boarding up the charred building's windows.

Forty-five fire service workers from eight stations from as far as Savage and Burtonsville responded to the call. By the time firefighters arrived, the blaze had engulfed a good portion of the buildings and flames were shooting through the roof, said Battalion Chief Donald Howell, a spokesman for the the Howard County Department of Fire and Rescue Services. The fire was brought under control by 2:30 a.m. and extinguished two hours later, he said.

Francis J. McNeeley, who lives across the street from the center, said he just happened to make a late-night trip to the bathroom when he noticed the blaze and called for fire services.

"On my way out, I thought I'd look to see if the night light was still on, and across the street I saw a tremendous night light," Mr. McNeeley said. "Flames were shooting up 25 to 30 feet. I knew right away we were in trouble."

The Bryant Woods pool, which had been scheduled to close Aug. 15,will be closed for the rest of the summer, said Pamela Mack, a Columbia Association spokeswoman.

The association plans to rebuild the pool pump house and bath house, she said, adding that insurers are evaluating the damage.

The fire is the third in two years at association facilities, Ms. Mack said.

The other two -- at the Athletic Club in Harper's Choice village and Amherst House in Kings Contrivance village -- were determined to be caused by electrical malfunctions, she said.

The Arson Control Association of Maryland is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest or indictment of a person or people responsible for the fire. The state fire marshal's office is accepting tips at 1-800-492-7529.

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